2020: Climate goes on the offense
January 13, 2020

Happy New Year. I hope that you and your family had a wonderful end to 2019 as we enter what will be a historic and critical year full of energy and commitment.

I enter 2020 with a sense of intense optimism mixed with a clear recognition that we are badly off course on climate change at almost every level. We are not on track to meet our emissions reduction goals in Washington, Oregon, the United States, or globally. The results are showing up every day, most vividly today in the burning forests of Australia.

I am optimistic because we are making progress in the Northwest, and are positioned to make greater gains in the next two years if we remain focused and build and use our collective power to offset the influence of the fossil fuel industry. I wanted to let you know about Climate Solutions’ priorities ahead, and outline what you can do.

In many ways, we are on offense for climate and clean energy in the Pacific Northwest. We won major victories in 2019, our movement continues to grow stronger, and the number of elected officials in both states and in many local communities that are prioritizing climate is increasing.

There are concrete results that will flow from our wins in 2019. Soon in Washington, when you flick on a light switch anywhere in the state you’ll know the bulb is powered by 100% clean energy because we helped to pass the 100% Clean Electricity bill. A kid in Pierce County you might catch a ride on an electric school bus; a Trimet transit rider might take a ride on an all-electric public transit bus as we move towards more electrification of our transportation sector.

We have a strong foundation built on this mixture of wins that generate momentum, a diverse and growing movement, and elected climate champions. So we view 2020 as a year of immense opportunity done in partnership with essential allies. We are going to pour all of our energy into making sure this results in Northwest climate action at the scale required to meet the challenge.

Our priorities for 2020 are grounded in our vision of making the Pacific Northwest the first region in the nation to be 100% clean. The key elements of our 100% Clean Vision are:

Clean and Equitable Transportation

Washington should have a Clean Fuel Standard, either through a state bill or regional action by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency. Already Oregon, California, and British Columbia have clean fuel standards, and the policy has proven to be a great way to cut carbon pollution, clean the air, and provide increased choices at a very low cost. It is past time that Washington pass a similar policy and create a complete West Coast bloc for climate action.

In Oregon, we are pursuing legislation that will get utilities to invest in electric vehicles, a step that we believe will play a key role in accelerating EV infrastructure and help Oregon meet its targets for transitioning away from fossil fuel dependent transportation and toward widespread adoption of electrification to power our cars, buses, and trucks.

We are also working at the local level to increase clean, safe, affordable transportation opportunities, including increasing the number of electric buses in public transit fleets in King County, Portland Metro, and other communities.

Finally, we need to develop more sustainable and equitable funding streams to fund and invest in the many transportation needs facing our region. Currently we do not have the resources to provide clean, affordable, and accessible transportation options for the rapidly changing needs of our communities, and the way our states raise funds is largely backwards, hurting the folks the most that can least afford to pay. We need to change this regressive approach.

In 2020, we will devote significant time to exploring winning solutions to the challenges of funding transportation in the Pacific Northwest, options that offer wider transit availability that is also frequent and affordable, help people opt out of cars, and that electrify our transportation system as much as we can.

100% Clean Electricity 

In 2019, Washington state passed what is widely considered to be the best bill of its kind in the nation. Not only does the new law commit the state to producing all of its electricity from clean sources, it also has cutting-edge labor standards and deep commitments to investing solutions in low income communities. Passage of the bill was a truly landmark achievement, but is not the end of our work here. The next several years will be essential to deliver on the promise as the state implements the law.

In Oregon, we have filed 100% Clean Electricity ballot measures for the November 2020 election, similar to Washington’s law. While we are working through the tangled legal web with the Secretary of State, we will keep pushing how best to accelerate Oregon’s path toward 100% clean electricity.

100% Clean Buildings

Our buildings account for roughly one fourth of all carbon emissions in Oregon and Washington. Carbon pollution from buildings is growing at a faster rate than any other source because of increased use of fossil fracked gas. In addition to climate pollution, gas releases dangerous pollutants linked to lung disease and other health risks into our indoor living spaces. We are working with many partners to accelerate the transition to clean and safe buildings by mapping ways communities can transition away from fracked gas in our built environment.

Clean Energy Jobs for Oregon

For the past several years, Climate Solutions in partnership with Renew Oregon and many other organizations have been actively advocating for passage of this critical bill to cap climate pollution and invest in clean energy solutions. Last year we were on the brink of victory but fell just short. This year, we are working to get the bill over the finish line but it remains a hard path ahead. If passed, Oregon will join California and other states that have put a price on carbon and invested money in solutions to the climate crisis.

Climate Solutions does all of our work in partnership with an increasingly diverse and broad group of allies including many communities of color and labor unions, businesses, and environmental and public health organizations. We do our work with an ever deepening commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, resulting in solutions that invest in the communities most impacted by climate change.

While Climate Solutions devotes much of our resources to advocating for policy reforms designed to drive change, it is not all that we do as an organization. We are also working to build increased awareness and engagement on a much larger scale. One way that will happen is through an exciting new project we are helping to launch next week.

The Wave is a regional coalition of the most iconic and culturally significant stakeholders in the Northwest including our zoos and aquariums, sports teams, convention centers and many other iconic venues and organizations. This coalition will work to make a major difference on climate change by leveraging its collective influence to move the needle toward an environmentally and economically thriving region, engaging youth and striving for environmental justice. It has been quite a ride, and we’re now collaborating with over 100 stakeholders to do just that. You will be hearing more about The Wave in the coming weeks and beyond.

2020 is a year of great promise here in the Northwest on climate change. We are well positioned for progress, but it will take all of us working together to make it happen. There are so many ways you can show up for climate action—from lobby days and contacting your legislators, to speaking up on your social media channels and in your communities to encouraging forward-thinking businesses to do the right thing.

During the upcoming legislative sessions in Oregon and Washington, our team will send regular text messages to help our community stay on top of opportunities to take action for our climate. Please make sure you're in the loop by clicking here (or by texting SOLUTION to 52886.

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Author Bio

Gregg Small

Executive Director, Climate Solutions

Gregg brings nearly 25 years of experience working on environmental and public policy issues, including 20 as an Executive Director. At Climate Solutions, Gregg oversees a staff of two dozen policy experts, campaigners, innovators, and researchers across three Northwest offices, providing strategic direction for one of the most effective regional climate and clean economy organizations in the nation. 

Prior to coming to Climate Solutions, Gregg served as the Executive Director of the Washington Toxics Coalition for 7 years and as the Executive Director of the California-based Pesticide Watch for 5 years. During that time, he played a leadership role in creating and developing a number of leading coalitions working on environmental health issues, including the Toxic Free Legacy Coalition,Californians for Pesticide Reform, and Safer Chemicals, Healthy Bodies. At Climate Solutions, he helped to found the Washington-based Alliance for Jobs and Clean Energy and Renew Oregon.

Gregg began his professional career as an organizer for Green Corps, working in Washington, DC, Vermont, and California. He received his B.A. in Political Science from Dickinson College.

When not at work, Gregg spends time with his family and raising awareness about Cystic Fibrosis, a genetic disease that his son Jude has and that he is passionate about finding a cure for.